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Vasily Kandinsky
Composition 8
Guggenheim Museum
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Falling Apart And Holding Together: Kandinsky’s Development
by Donald Kuspit

Let’s take a fresh look at Kandinsky’s works, forgetting the standard spiritual reading of them which has become de rigueur, while not denying that his early works bespeak what he himself called an "inner mood" of "decline," in which "desperation, unbelief, lack of purpose" prevail, even as they also convey the manic excitement that defends against this mood and which has been misread as spiritual aspiration. Wieland Schmied has called Kandinsky’s pre-World War I paintings "apocalyptic landscapes," arguing that they are informed with apocalyptic destructiveness, but also the elated expectation of post-apocalyptic redemption. The intense colors on which Kandinsky placed so much esthetic and expressive hope have redemptive power, even as their brightness is sometimes streaked with painful shadow. The forceful black lines, sometimes stylized squiggles and typically at odds with each other, while awkwardly framing the eccentric patches of color, create an effect of what Kandinsky called "dissonance," suggesting apocalyptic destructiveness.